In memory of DEBRA Golf Society President, Peter Alliss

All at DEBRA were sad to hear of the passing of the ‘voice of golf’ Peter Alliss, President of DEBRA Golf Society for over 25 years. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. 

Peter’s connection with DEBRA started with an approach from John Taylorson, Ian Mair and Tim Seabrook, the original founders of the Golf Society, soon after which Peter met Jonny Kennedy, subject of the Channel 4 documentary, The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, at a DEBRA event at Wentworth Golf Club. DEBRA Golf Society Vice-President and TV presenter Steve Rider was with Peter on that occasion and has shared these thoughts with us:

A tribute from Steve Rider, DEBRA Golf Society Vice-President.

The passing of Peter Alliss, the long-time President of the DEBRA Golf Society has quite correctly been recognised with fulsome tributes on radio and television and thousands of words of praise and admiration in the press.

They have concentrated on his humour and commentary style, his use of language and observation and, as someone who was lucky enough to sit alongside him in the BBC golf studio for over twenty years, I would add my opinion that he was, without doubt, the greatest sports broadcaster of his generation.

However, there is so much to explore in his broadcasting career and golfing achievements that little room was left in the tributes for his huge amount of charitable work which embraced not only DEBRA but the millions of pounds he raised for his own powered wheelchair charity of which he was rightfully proud.

He was never one to just casually add his name or profile to a charity, he wanted to become involved and his enthusiasm and generosity of spirit persuaded others to become involved. I well remember the DEBRA dinner he invited me to at Wentworth where we were entertained and inspired by the extraordinary Jonny Kennedy and were easily persuaded to do more, especially if Peter was leading the way.

Thanks to Peter, the golfing world and the broadcasting world has been left with a permanent example of how the sport should be played and how its values should be communicated. It has also left all those who worked alongside him with a fund of stories (some barely repeatable) that we will dine out on for years.

But one incident sticks in my mind that sums up the loyalty and generosity of Peter. In the mid-1990’s the IMG Sporting empire of Mark McCormack made a big bid to take the contract for the Open Championship away from the BBC and move it on to commercial television and beyond.

The gentlemen of the R and A were brought to London and given a glitzy commercial presentation at Browns Hotel in which it was indicated, among other things, that Peter Alliss would be a big money addition to the Channel Four commentary team.

The R and A were then brought to Television Centre to a rather more humble and somewhat pessimistic presentation from the BBC. At the conclusion of the BBC proposals, Peter was asked about the prospect of working for Channel Four. He answered, “All I would say gentlemen is the day that your great Championship ceases to be broadcast by the BBC is the day I will retire as a golf commentator.”

No further discussion was required, we all headed for the bar in the knowledge that the Open Championship was safe on BBC Television for at least the next fifteen years.

Whether you are a golfer a broadcaster or work or play in support of DEBRA, we have so many reasons to be grateful to the wonderful and unique, Peter Alliss.

Steve Rider, DEBRA Golf Society Vice-President 

Photo: BBC Sport